Zhida Shang to study global affairs at China’s Tsinghua University, focusing on public health


McGill medical student Zhida Shang has been awarded a full scholarship to Beijing’s Tsinghua University, where he will be among 150 Schwarzman Scholars from around the world studying global affairs in a one-year master’s degree program.


Shang, who already holds two nursing degrees from McGill, said he hopes to spend the year learning more about public health in China.


“In the 1950s, China’s average life expectancy was 40,” he said. “Today, it has a population of 1.4 billion and life expectancy is 78 years. And I really want to know: How did they do this? How can we apply this knowledge to developing countries today so they can make a similar leap?”


Preparing for the next health emergency


Shang also said he would like to help tackle the next big global health challenge.


“I’ve spoken with many leading experts on infectious disease, and all agreed that COVID will not be the last major public health emergency, even in this generation,” he said. “For the next one, we need to be better prepared, and we need to make sure it doesn’t divide the world but brings us together.”


After he completes the master’s degree in global affairs, Shang said he plans to continue his medical studies and pursue either emergency medicine or internal medicine, with the hope of  dedicating a significant portion of his time to global health research.


A world of opportunity


The program was established in 2015 by American businessman Stephen Schwarzman, who was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship. Shang is part of the 2024-25 cohort, which includes students from 43 countries chosen from roughly 4,000 candidates.


The program focuses on global affairs and economics, provides personalized mentorships and features notable guest speakers such as Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state, and Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom.


Students also complete an intensive, week-long themed field trip to regions throughout China.


Having recently completed a month-long rural medicine rotation in the Cree Nation of Chisasibi in northern Quebec, Shang is considering a trip to rural China.


“I would really like to see how rural medicine in China is being practised and delivered, and what their unique health challenges are.”


Looking forward to learning from peers


Shang said he’s eager to learn from his fellow scholars.


“We’re going to be really close – living together and seeing each other every day. I want to have debates and have my views challenged, so I can eventually emerge as a more rounded person exposed to diverse views.”

Following in McGill footsteps


Shang, who was born in China and moved to Canada when he was 4, learned of the program when he read a McGill article featuring a past Schwarzman scholar.  Intrigued, he asked himself, “‘Why is it a western name, but associated with a university in China?’ Eventually I did more research on the topic and thought, ‘I think this is the right fit for me.’”


His cohort includes Helen Yang, a McGill alumna who just completed in master’s degree in operations research from Columbia University.


Past scholars from McGill include William Dixon (2023-24) Jonathan Lopez (2018-19) and Jordan-Nicolas Matte (2018-19).